Monday, 18 April 2016

A-Z Challenge 2016 - Wildflowers 'O'

My theme this year is wild flowers. Most of us will be aware of the flowers that grow in our gardens but what surprises me is how few wild flowers that I know.

I pass them every day but rarely look at them. Well this year will be different - even if many of them may fall under the letter 'X' for unknown.

'O' - Old Man's Beard, Orchid

In the 16th century herbalist John Gerard gave a plant its name because it "deck(s) and adorn(s) waies and hedges where people trauell".

Traveller's Joy
This rambling woody climber can live for 60 years and reach heights of 50 feet, covering large trees, extensive stretches of hedgerow and even smothering small timber trees.

It's sometimes called wild clematis or virgin's bower due to its interlaced white stems. The flowers are greenish-white or creamy white.

But its fruits - white and feathery - are what gives it the name that I know it by.

Old Man's Beard
Gypsies used to cut lengths of dry stem to smoke - hence it was also given the name gipsy's bacca; in Germany it is Rauchole, bois à fumer in France and smookhout in Holland.

When we walked from Padstow (in Cornwall) on the trail alongside the - 

Camel Estuary
we came across this flower.

"Purple Orchid" ?  - May 2011
Note my question mark as it might even be a Southern marsh orchid or not an orchid at all.

Although the early purple orchid is fragrant enough to begin with it is said be unpleasantly reminiscent of tomcats as the flowers fade. At the time I must confess that I didn't smell it - and Buster wouldn't wait any longer.

Nor can I vouch for its association with sex. The ancient Greeks used it to predict the sex of their children. In Ireland is was an ingredient in a powerful love potion.


  • Traveller's Joy - 15 Aug 2009, ex by Jonathan Billinger - CC BY-SA 2.0 generic
  • Old Man's Beard - 24 December 2007, ex by Colin Smith - CC BY-SA 2.0 generic


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bob - my mother used to always point out Old Man's Beard ... and I'm sure she'd have known about the Orchid - I don't sadly ... Buster I can see wasn't too happy turning around and waiting!

Lovely photos, especially of the Camel - and also fascinating extra info on Old Man's Beard ... cheers Hilary

Anonymous said...

Hi, Bob. I have a wildflower today, but not one of yours. I know of a pyramid orchid, which looks rather like your picture, but I'm not well up on orchids.
@suesconsideredt from Sue’s Trifles
and Sue’s words and pictures

Jo said...

Think I've heard of Old Man's Beard. Don't know the orchid at all though. Interesting Gypsy's smoked the wood of the first plant. That is reflected in the other names you gave from other countries.

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

Hugs to Buster.

Susan A Eames said...

I can see why that is called Old Man's Beard - it's glorious! Buster looks rather nice too! :)

Susan A Eames from
Travel, Fiction and Photos

Wendy said...

Too bad Traveler's Joy turns to Old Man's Beard. But there isn't a more perfect descriptive name, to be sure!